Friday, July 5, 2013

The war of machine 2 machine: Internet of nothing?

A recent Tweet conversation got me thinking about all the hoopla about machine-to-machine / internet of everything.

Many telecom equipment manufacturer hail the trend as the next big thing for wireless networks, both a bounty to be harvested and a great opportunity for new revenue streams.

There is certainly a lot to think about when more and more devices that were not designed for real time connectivity are suddenly able to exchange, report, alarm... All these devices that could have well suited rudimentary logging software or technology, most of the time for manual retrieval (think your home gaz, water  or electricity meters being read by a technician) could in the future be eligible for over the air data transfer.

A similar discussion I had at LTE world Summit where I was chairing the data explosion stream comes to mind. A utility company in Italy, I think, had rolled out these "smart" meters. The implementation in labs was flawless, the utility was going to save millions, with only a handful of employees monitoring the data center instead of hundreds scouring the countryside reading manually meters. What was unexpected was that all meters had the same behavior, sending keep-alive and reporting logs at the same time. This brought the wireless network down, in a signalling and payload storm that was self-inflicted.

When I look at all the companies that have created apps with no knowledge of how a phone or a mobile network behaves, I can't help but think about the consequences of meters, cars, irrigation sensors, gaz turbines, fridges and traffic light trying to send snippets of data and signalling through a wireless network with no understanding of how these signals and streams will affect the infrastructure.

This immediately bring to mind horrific headlines: "Sheep herds monitoring device bring down network in New Zealand!". "Water and electricity meters fighting over bandwidth..."

More seriously, it means all these device manufacturers will need to get some serious programmers who understand wireless not only to put the transmitters on the devices but also to code efficiently so that signalling and payload are optimized. Network operators will also need to publish best practices for M2M traffic in term of frequency, amount, etc... with stringent SLAs since most of this traffic will be discrete (subscription paid with service or device, no usage payment).

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